A coaching change means a new start for everybody. New schemes, new coaches, new plays, new approach.
Some players already on the roster won’t fit in and will be traded or released. Others will find themselves with reduced roles.
Then there’s the group that benefits tremendously from a coaching change.
Like Brian Dawkins. He didn’t make a Pro Bowl in three years under Ray Rhodes and Emmitt Thomas, but as soon as Andy Reid replaced Rhodes and Jim Johnson became his coordinator, he was on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Like Jason Kelce. He was pretty good during the Andy Reid portion of his career but has made all four of his Pro Bowls since Chip Kelly hired Jeff Stoutland.
Like Zach Ertz. Good tight end but never a Pro Bowler in three years under Kelly. Record-setter and three-time Pro Bowler playing for Doug Pederson.
Who are the guys who have a chance to benefit the most from this year's Eagles’ coaching change?
Here’s a look at five possibilities:
Derek Barnett: Since he was the 14th pick in the 2017 draft, Barnett has been largely disappointing, recording just 19 ½ sacks in four seasons and missing 16 games with various injuries. Some 58 players have more sacks than Barnett since he entered the league four years ago. Barnett will have his fourth position coach this coming season, assuming he’s here. New d-line coach Tracy Rocker should be able to get more out of Barnett than Chris Wilson, Phillip Daniels and Matt Burke did. Rocker, who like Barnett as an all-SEC lineman, is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a very highly regarded technician. The Eagles will have to figure out a contract with Barnett, because they’re certainly not paying him the $10 million tender. But if Barnett is here, and he likely will be, Rocker could be the guy to finally help Barnett live up to his potential.
Travis Fulgham: There’s definitely something there. You don’t catch 29-for-435 with 4 TDs in your first five games with a new team if you don’t have ability. Pederson alluded a couple times to Fulgham’s work habits, and it was clear there was a growing disconnect between Fulgham and Pederson as the year went on. Fulgham got into Pederson’s doghouse and never got out. He caught only 9-for-104 yards the last eight games of the season, and his reps declined dramatically soon after his hot start. With Pederson gone, a new head coach with a background as a receivers coach in place and Aaron Moorehead returning for a second season, the structure should be in place to help Fulgham regain a measure of the form he showed during those five weeks in October and November.
Jalen Reagor: The rookie 1st-round pick had a frustrating season, missing five games and managing just 396 yards and one TD in the 11 games he did play. He never looked comfortable, he wasn’t able to transfer his speed into getting open, he struggled finishing his routes and he looked awkward trying to time his high point to the ball. Nobody on this roster needed a new offense more than Reagor, who like Fulgham should benefit from a head coach who’s a former WR coach but he should also benefit from a new offense that can scheme him open better. The Eagles need Reagor to make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 and he’ll have a chance to do it in Sirianni’s offense.
Miles Sanders: His 4.9 rushing average is 4th-highest in the NFL among running backs over the last two years, but he’s never had more than 20 carries in a game and this past year despite a 5.3 average – 2nd-highest in the league – he averaged only 13 carries per game and only 5 1/2 in the second half. Nobody in the NFL was more under-utilized as week after week Pederson simply forgot about Sanders at the expense of a feeble passing game. Sirianni comes from a Colts system under Frank Reich where Marlon Mack rushed for nearly 1,100 yards in 14 games in 2018 and Salem’s Jonathan Taylor ran for 1,169 yards in 15 games as a rookie this past year. Sirianni comes from the same Frank Reich system that emphasized the running game with the Eagles in 2017, Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount played such a big role on a championship team.
Carson Wentz: Nobody is more in need of a fresh start than Wentz, whose issues with Pederson – right or wrong – have been well-documented since the season ended. We still don’t know if Wentz will be here in 2021, but if he is, he’ll have a new head coach, a new play caller, a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach. Both Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen are disciples of Reich, who got the most out of Wentz in 2017. Who knows what the future holds or if Wentz even wants to be here. But if Wentz decides he wants to stay here and try to regain his form, a head coach and offensive coordinator whose mentor was Wentz’s coach when he made an MVP run would seem to be the perfect people to help him do it.
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